Regardless of how terrifying a job interview sounds, you assume that the interviewer will at least be polite and friendly. But what would you think if they were scowling, unwilling to shake hands, and generally unpleasant?
If you find yourself in this situation, remember that the interviewer probably has a reason for the rudeness. Are you interviewing for a position in labor-management relations? Does the position involve high-stakes negotiation? Perhaps you’re interviewing a job in security or law enforcement? Or maybe it’s a job in high-pressure sales or fast paced negotiation, like commodities trading? Any of these fields hold the distinct possibility of a stress interview, and you should know how to prepare for this scary situation.
The interviewer is going to purposely use tactics that will make you feel uncomfortable, such as long silences, apparent hostility, and an unpleasant demeanor. The interviewer is going to ask personal, seemingly irrelevant questions like, “What’s the stupidest thing you have ever done?”
An interviewer is going to expect you to possess the ability to handle stress with comfort and ease, and the general opinion is that if you can’t cope with the stress interview, you’re not a likely candidate for an extremely stressful job.
The interviewer is likely to set you up for a fall during the stress interview. For example, when reviewing your current position that you have been in for three years, he or she may ask why you have failed to advance. The best possible answer in this situation is to explain that you have enjoyed the position, but that senior associates still fill those jobs.
An interviewer is also likely to try to get you to blame your supervisor for job-related stress with a question like, “Who was responsible for the stress in your last job?” Never answer directly…Blaming coworkers or a supervisor for stress on the job is going to tell the interviewer that you like to blame others for problems. Instead, try turning it into a positive with something like, “I feel the stress comes from working in this industry, not from specific individuals.” Providing an answer like this in a calm fashion proves that you understand what to expect from your high-stress field, and that you won’t speak negatively of current or past coworkers or supervisors.
Another common question during a stress interview is the one that seems to invite negativity. It is usually in the form of “What do you like least about your current job?” However, even though the question seems to invite negativity, refuse to be negative. The best response to a question like this is to insist that you like everything about your current position, detail the skills it has helped you hone, and finish by saying that while you love your job, you need a new set of professional challenges.
The stress interview is supposed to be stressful, but by staying calm, positive, and engaged you’ll prove that you are the best person for the job. If the position isn’t high-stress, but you seem to be participating in a stress interview, you may want to reconsider your desire to work for the company…It might prove to be unpleasant.
Dorio, Marc. The complete Idiot’s Guide to The Perfect Interview:227-233